Moshing With The Maharishi

Kula Shaker - K
(Columbia Records)
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

Drenched in Eastern mysticism and weaned on British pop, Kula Shaker have released a debut album that is affected and pretentious but also, at times, infectious and pleasing.
Riding the current wave of Brit-pop-rock that bands like Oasis, Pulp and Blur helped build, these four British lads have added a different twist to their music to set them apart from their contemporaries. With the addition of East Indian sitars, tablas and hippie idealisms over familiar catchy melodies and even more familiar 70's guitar-lines the results are mixed
When The Beatles dabbled with East Indian music in 1968 it succeeded through sheer naive experimentation and, more recently, when Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and Robert Plant reunited and reworked some of their classic Zeppelin numbers with an Eastern slant, it proved that the mystic sound of India could fit comfortably within the realm of rock. This marriage of East and West, however, fits Kula Shaker like a bad turban.
On their latest hit "Tattva" lead singer and guitarist Crispian Mills (son of actress Haley Mills, of Disney's "The Parent Trap" fame) chants in a haunting Beatle-esque manner, "Tattva, acintya bheda bheda Tattva" over and over so many times you'll think you're at a Hare Krishna rendezvous. The trance-like "Govinda" likewise plods, although there is some interesting psychedelic guitar-work from Mills, and on the instrumental "Sleeping Jiva" the band incorporates a more authentic Middle-Eastern sound, courtesy of Wajahat Kahn's Indian strings.
It's ironic, through all the band's false identity searching, that the best cuts on the album have nothing in common with the Eastern philosophies that they have adopted. "Knight On The Town" rocks hard with a Stooges-like rhythm provided by bassist Alonza Bevan and drummer Paul Winterhart, while the no nonsense Brit-pop songs "Into The Deep", "Start All Over" and "Smart Dogs" are more reminiscent of The Monkees and The Beatles than of Ravi Shankar. And on the hard-rocking "Grateful When You're Dead" and "303" the band produces a heavy, Lenny Kravitz inspired sound.
On their next effort, Kula Shaker should stick to the melodic pop that highlights their album K, and stop floundering in the Maharishi's mosh-pit.

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